Measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It affects the respiratory system (lungs and breathing tubes) and causes a fever and a rash. Other symptoms include cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Measles can be serious, especially for babies and young children. It is mainly spread through the air after a person with measles breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Measles symptoms usually begin seven to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Measles is contagious from about four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash.
Measles brochure (PDF)
Measles is rare in the United States, but recently there have been higher than usual numbers of measles cases in several states. People are usually exposed to measles when they travel internationally, and unvaccinated people can get infected abroad and bring the virus back to the U.S.
If you think you might have measles, call your doctor. If you need to be seen by a doctor, be sure to call before you arrive so that arrangements can be made to avoid exposing other people.
Measles is preventable. Now is a good time to check if you and your family are up to date on vaccinations. The measles vaccine is called “MMR” (measles-mumps-rubella).
You are considered immune to measles if ANY of the following apply to you:
- You have written documentation of adequate vaccination, which includes:
a. one or more doses of a measles-containing vaccine given on or after the first birthday for preschool-age children and adults who are not at high risk
b. two doses of measles-containing vaccine for school-age children
c. two doses of measles-containing vaccine for adults at high risk (including college students, healthcare personnel, and international travelers)
- You have laboratory tests showing that you are immune
- You have laboratory tests showing that you have had measles
- You were born in the United States before 1957
For more information about vaccination, visit the CDC's site.